Charleston Staycations: Capers Island

By January 20, 2016 September 29th, 2016 Around Charleston

Thousands of years of human innovation has lead to the world as we know it today; a digitally connected society where everyday tasks have never been easier or more convenient. Ironically, disconnecting from all of the conveniences and escaping back to the primitive wilderness has become a task within itself. We know that taking a break from the city life is good every once in a while, there are even studies that suggest unplugging from the modern world can have psychological benefits. The problem is uninhabited, people-less places are becoming harder and harder to find, especially in Charleston where development and growth is exploding.


Capers Island at sunset.

However, the good news is there are places that exist, not far from Charleston, where it is possible to disconnect, unplug, signout and experience the natural environment free from modern distractions.

Located just 15 miles north of Charleston, Capers Island lies in between Dewees Island and the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. Capers Island is a unique barrier island in that it is completely unspoiled. The island is protected from development and remains in its natural state. Capers is about 3 miles long and features over 200 acres of front beach, 850 acres of maritime forests and uplands, and over a hundred acres of brackish ponds and impoundments.

Capers Island remains secluded and isolated because there are no roads or bridges that connect it to the mainland or neighboring islands. The only way to access it is by boat.

How To Get To Capers Island

Since the island is only accessible by boat, visitors will have to plan ahead to get there. The most popular way is by kayak or canoe. There are several options of where to put in. The closest boat landing to Capers is the Gadsdenville Public Boat Landing which is just over 2 miles away. This boat landing is in Mt. Pleasant and would require a short kayak or boat trip across the marshland’s smaller creeks and scenic waterways.

The next closest boat landing is Garris Public Boat Landing, located farther north in Awendaw. This route is a little over 5 miles and will land you on the north end of Capers. There is also a marina located south along the Intracoastal Waterway on the Isle of Palms. This route is also around 5 miles and will land you on the southern end of Capers Island.


A small creek leads to the backside of Capers Island.

Which ever route you choose you will experience a beautiful, wide open expanse of native marshalnds, winding creeks and waterways teeming with wildlife of all kinds including bottlenose dolphin, egrets, herons, ospreys, as well as many species of fish including red drum, sea trout, flounder, and king whiting.

If you do plan to kayak or canoe to the island it is important to check the weather forecast beforehand and also make sure to check the tides to avoid becoming grounded or stuck during low tide. Check the NOAA Tides and Currents for Charleston. Another option is to setup a charter with a local expedition company like Coastal Expeditions or Barrier Island Eco-Tours.

Camping on Capers Island

Visitors are aloud to stop by the island anytime during daylight hours free of charge and without a permit. Although, if you want to camp overnight you must obtain a free DNR permit. Camping is only allowed on the north and south ends of the island and is restricted to 80 total people per night. Click here for all of the Capers Island DNR regulations. What really sets Capers apart from other DNR managed lands is that fires are permitted on the island and dogs can also accompany you anytime.


Fires are permitted while camping on Capers Island.


A unique feature of Capers Island is the “bone-yard beach”.

If you do bring your 4 legged companion, there is plenty of room for them to run and explore. The beach is one of the cleanest, most pristine beaches in the lowcountry. It also features the”bone-yard” which is a collection of weathered tree skeletons that succumbed to natural erosion years ago. Many of the tree skeletons appear frozen in time as the land beneath them has disappeared. In fact, the island is eroding an average of 15 feet per year since 1875.


The “bone-yard” on the south end of the island.

Another feature is McCaskill Trail whcih is a primitive walking path for exploring the interior part of the island although parts of it are overgrown or washed out from time to time. The trail extends from the front beach to the back of the island on the marsh side where there is a dock for boats or kayaks to park.

Exploring Capers Island is truly a unique experience. The natural features of the island combined with the abundance of wildlife make it an excellent destination for nature photographers, explorers and adventurers as well as those who need a break from the modern world. It is a magical place that seems worlds away until you make the short trip back to Charleston.

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